BRCC Hunger Week Brings Attention to Growing Issue
Students at Blue Ridge Community College are getting some sobering lessons about hunger, and a call to action.
The school's annual "Hunger Week" shines the light on the need in our own neighborhoods and classrooms. BRCC is conducting a hunger survey among its students and will see the results in a few weeks.
But BRCC President John Downey believes the problem on campus will reflect the rest of the Shenandoah Valley and central Virginia, where more than one in 10 people can't take their next meal for granted.
Hope Distributed is one of the hundreds of agencies stocking up at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. It has seen its demand double over the past five years.
Sam Montanez, with Hope Distributed, said, "It's not something that's out there away from us... it's right among us. We live among the people who are in need."
The sobering message was part of a panel discussion on hunger in the valley at Blue Ridge Community College. The school believes that even in the crowd of students are people in need.
Downey said, "Just like every other food-insecure person, they're often making choices between rent or textbooks or tuition or food."
Shana Shifflett, a student at BRCC, said, "It was just a big shocker to realize that even people I go to school with... I mean, I wouldn't even recognize that they need food."
The food bank aims to help your neighbors and co-workers by distributing food over 25 counties, but donations are not keeping pace.
Michael McKee, with the Blue Ridge Food Bank, said, "We cannot food bank our way out of what is a real emerging crisis in the scope of food insecurity in our country."
McKee points out that a record number of Americans - 46 million - are on food stamps. A fellow panelist says part of the blame falls on the federal minimum wage, and its failure to keep pace with inflation.
Cliff Gilchrest with the Hunger Response Team, said, "Our country has not looked seriously at what we're willing to pay people to do a job on a daily basis."
An entire week's worth of events focus on the reasons for hunger and offer chances for the college community to raise food and funds. Hunger Week at BRCC continues through Friday. It includes a series of fundraisers, a benefit concert and a hunger simulation.